MAY 19, 1925

In this 1963 photo, civil rights leader Malcolm X speaks to reporters in Washington. Credit: Associated Press

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. When he was 14, a teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he answered that he wanted to be a lawyer. The teacher chided him, urging him to be realistic. “Why don’t you plan on carpentry?” 

In prison, he became a follower of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. In his speeches, Malcolm X warned Black Americans against self-loathing: “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind?” 

Prior to a 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, he split with Elijah Muhammad. As a result of that trip, Malcolm X began to accept followers of all races. In 1965, he was assassinated. Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the civil rights leader in Spike Lee’s 1992 award-winning film.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.